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"Random musings"

SO PISSED!!!!!!! Tuesday, July 11, 2006 |

I have signed petitions against the death penalty, but at times like these when people blow up trains full of innocent officegoers... I wonder why...

Brave reporting... Tuesday, July 04, 2006 |

The Disaster Management team (Mumbai rains 2005 fallout) at Milan subway, Santacruz, has a boat to ferry people across flooded streets.
So far so good.... but what are they doing with it?
The team is being interviewed by a nubile young reporter from Aaj Tak perched on, yes.... the boat. In very well composed TV footage we see the interview happening with a backdrop of people trying to wade through waist deep water.

Rain, rain... go to spain |

Another year and another monsoon. Mumbai suddenly seems like its inching back to 26th July 2005. This time around I am home and dry. Not very fair, but I get to reminisce about last year while sipping my chai and munching on ‘kande bhaji’ while people out there wade through knee deep muck.

This time last year was my last month of internship at the Sir J.J. Group of Hospitals, Byculla. I was looking forward to the end of 48-hour duties, looking forward to sleeping six hours a night and most importantly looking forward to getting out of what was then a thoroughly depressing place (nostalgia now has given different shades to JJ).
My last internship posting was Gynaecology and Obstetrics at Cama and Albless Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Dhobi Talao(next to Xavier’s for those who don’t know). Never enjoyed OB/GY…

I was off call on the 26th and had gone to JJ hospital, helped a friend out with her ward work and finally managed to get home early next morning after wading through waist deep water and hitching a ride in a rickety police van.

We realised the true proportions of the tragedy slowly as news kept trickling in. Friends were spending nights in their offices, people had died in their cars, and people had died in the slums…

On the 27th a friend and I approached the Superintendent of the St. George’s hospital (part of the JJ group, situated behind CST station) with a plan. We told him that if he could give us one ambulance and some supplies we could gather a bunch our colleagues and try and get some medical aid to people stranded in the rains. We were almost laughed out of his office; he had a couple of flunkies with him who wondered aloud as to who these knights were rushing to the aid of.

Chastened, we went back to work. But in two days, after public outrage and non-stop media reports, the superintendent and his masters in the Government of Maharashtra were singing to a different tune altogether. They set up two camps at Churchgate and CST stations providing medical aid. But this of course in true government style was too little, too late, and far away from where help was actually required.

On the 31st of July I was put in charge of a team of five of my co-interns and was asked to get to Dahisar, where we were to help the BMC conduct health camps in affected areas. It was still raining but we managed to reach the BMC ward office. Our superiors at JJ had told us that we only had to report for duty, the BMC had supplies and an action plan ready.

What follows is what happened next

Ward Office:
At the ward office the Medical Officer Health (MOH) was playing solitaire on his new computer, sipping on chai. He waves us to sit, not really taking his eyes off the game. Then someone in the office told us to arbitrarily divide the health posts in the ward amongst us. A peon walks into the office asking the MOH to come in for a conference to the Ward officer’s cabin. The MOH looks at us and drags us along to the meeting, confessing that its been a while since he has looked at a patient and insists that we handle any questions that came up about epidemics or leptospirosis.
More chai was sipped, small talk happened; the rains were mentioned in passing. I asked if medical supplies had arrived yet from the BMC health headquarters (F/South – Parel). The officer told me that since there was water logging everywhere most of the truck drivers couldn’t get to work and the ones that could, couldn’t drive the trucks with supplies all the way to Dahisar. It occurred to me to tell him that they should just load it onto trains and get them here, since I had bloody well managed to drag my sorry ass all the way from Colaba, but better sense prevailed. Anyway, the officer went on, we shouldn’t have a problem at the health posts since they were all well stocked.

Health post:
At the health post we found the PHN (public health nurse) sipping on some more chai. Inquiries were made about the FTMO (‘full time’ medical officer) and we were told that he had left for his private clinic (we suspect that he never came in that morning). We asked the PHN where the health post staff had gone, “they… er… are in the field” she said “surveying the situation…” All that the health post had in terms of supplies were paracetamol tablets (crocin), iron tablets and children’s vaccines. Frustrated we called JJ, we were instructed that we should just hang around there till noon and come back. We then called the ward office and asked them where the promised supplies were, and we were told that we should learn to make the best of what we have.
We walked around the area a bit and came back to the health post. Surprisingly, the smiling Medical Officer who insisted that he had only gone home for lunch, when it was obvious that he had been frantically called back by the PHN, greeted us. He then went on to explain that since we didn’t have supplies or anything there was little we could do but wait.

Jain temple:
Bang next to the health post (almost sharing a wall) is a Jain temple. They seemed to have some sort of committee meeting on with middle-aged men sitting around discussing something. It struck us that we could probably convince the temple committee to buy us medicines. So my colleague (Gujarati speaking devout Jain) and me (Malayalam/ Marathi speaking atheist/agnostic) went up to them. They were very receptive to our idea. We made up a list of drugs we needed and they made a list of wholesalers they knew whose warehouses hadn’t been flooded, simple.

By the next morning we managed to collect almost every drug we needed. The health post staff (including the FTMO and PHN) were shocked when they saw the drugs appear. The first camp we held had only the two of us with volunteers from the temple, the BMC staff grudgingly joined us the day after.
In the next 15 days we (we divided supplies amongst our original team of six) managed to cover every flood affected area in the ward with daylong health camps. We believe that these camps ensured that there were no post monsoon deaths in the ward area.

On the 7th day supplies finally arrived from the BMC, antibiotic tablets labelled in Hebrew and English, wonder where all the aid that seemed to be pouring into Mumbai went.

It was gratifying to find help last year when we were clutching at straws. But I sincerely hope that the BMC is better prepared this time around. It does look like today will be nowhere as bad as 26th July 2005, but it wouldn't hurt to be prepared.

Cuba cabana.... Monday, June 26, 2006 |

The picture to the right(in my profile you dodo) has not been shot by me, although I wish it was. I mean it is exactly the kind of picture I'd shoot if I had one of those super cool SLR thingies(digital or otherwise). SLR, by the way, stands for 'Single Light Reflex' as a friend painstakingly explained to me during an equally painful dermatology clinic many moons ago. Till then all that the acronym meant to me was 'Self Loading Rifle'. Yes me be little gun obsessed, and if you throw any Freudian explanations starting with the letter 'P' at me then I'll curse you to slipping and falling on an SLR(not the camera) setting off the damn thing, with resulting fireworks in the Netherlands giving you a deeper understanding of what Freud meant by his stage of anal fixation.

Voice in head: You stupid stupid oaf... two people read your blog. In the last paragraph you call one a dodo and go on to threaten the other with 'Carnal intercourse with a gun (against the order of nature Section 377z Sub clause MCMXV, IPC)'. Great going Einstein, I see the popularity ratings soaring already!

Tsck, tsck.... we digress too much(digressing some more... I wonder who first spelt 'Tsck tsck' as 'tsck tsck'). So yes....multiple personality Freud Guns SLR Cameras the picture!

It is also the kind of picture I'd have shot if I knew the first thing about photography, or the last or even any of the things in between. It is also the kind of picture I'd have shot if I could get to the seafront early in the morning or in the evening. I'm never up that early and all I picked up at Spanish classes was the concept of a long rejuvenating 'siesta'. And after exactly 294 words of rambling disconnected prose(?), 'what is the point?' you may ask.

Well me dearies, the problem is this:
This picture reminds me of the time I woke up one morning after having slept the night away in my jalopy parked on Marine Drive, the warm rays of the sun caressing my face etc. etc. But then my intensely complicated Freudian mind also tells me that the picture is not quite Mumbai. Something about the angle of the sun over the buildings. If its Mumbai, then its post the great earthquake that will rip Mumbai away from Maharashtra and turn it around (literally and metaphorically) leading to the formation of a nation state second to none. Sigh… but since substance induced hallucinations are only substance induced hallucinations, where is this place?

Random little voice (yes, again in my head) whispers 'Cuba! Havana!'. I have no clue why, considering the fact that the quasi American culture that we feed on supplies us with very few images of papa Fidel's capital. And the only thing I know for sure about Cuba is that those cigars are made in factories full of rows and rows of hot women rolling them between their thighs. (sigh again… deeper this time)

Someone please tell me where o where this is?

In case anyone is sure that its amchi Mumbai... dont tell me, I like the sound of Havana.

Listening to: Yellow Submarine - The Beatles

Gyan for today –
SLR can also stand for
Satellite Laser Ranging
Scalable Linear Recording
Sinfully Lovely Rump
Tsck also stands for – The Scientific Centre Kuwait

There are stories that McCartney actually spoke of hallucinogenic yellow pills (dolls) when he wrote that song and it is not just a children's song.

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, reads: "Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine".
This is also reproduced verbatim in the Singapore Penal Code. It is said to have been originally written in by Lord Thomas Maculay. There is a delightful little note on the Wikipedia page about section 377 that reads ' It may be of interest to note that Lord Macaulay remained single throughout his lifetime, an unusual situation for a man of his status in the Victorian era'

New words and phrases... Thursday, June 22, 2006 |

weltschmerz : (VELT-shmerts) noun

World weariness; pessimism, apathy, or sadness felt at the difference
between physical reality and the ideal state.

The Elegant Variation:
"Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."

When I was much younger, I used to work hard on my writing. I realise now that what I strove towards then was "The Elegant Variation", but as fate would have it I gave up writing and took up Medicine(only to make a hash of med school).
Going on, The Elegant Variation(where I stumbled upon the term in the first place) is also author Mark Sarvas' weblog. If you have time on your hands and are generally curious here is a link to an excerpt from his novel. Strictly ok stuff.

Everyday NEWS Wednesday, June 14, 2006 |

Its important to stay informed. Which is why a gazillion trees are hacked every single day to produce a gallion squared number of newspapers and magazines and tabloids and what not. But since this is the post modern knowledge age(or are we at post-knowledge now?), bytes of information are being hurled at you faster than Mount Vesuvius ever spewed fire and ash.
Most of this information is of such exemplary quality that one can only sit back and thank the heavens above that no trees are being cut to get this information to you.
I remember a comic who used have a really good 'NEWS' act, a take on news anchors and news stories. The anchors would be exaggeratedly stupid and the stories would be really silly. But it takes only a visit to a news site(CNN IBN in my case, could have been any site) to realise that he probably didn't need to exaggerate or make things seem funnier than they are.

Here are some of the top stories for today....

Dinbudhi in Jharkhand is getting roads, electricity and drinking water. Nothing funny about that. The government, after 58 years of slumber, appears to have suddenly woken up to the idea that this village exists. Nothing funny about that either since miracles do happen from time to time. Now here's the funny bit...

One of the most eligible bachelors of Jharkhand, the state home minister, Sudesh Mahto is all set to tie the knot and his hometown Silli is getting ready for the mega event on June 18.

Dinbudhi, the village from where his wife-to-be comes is undergoing a complete makeover - roads, electricity, and drinking water all are in place now, for the first time in 58 years.


However, the opposition parties in the state are watching closely. While some want the Income Tax department to keep an eye on the lavish function, others want the minister to adopt more villages like Dinbudih, so that they get better facilities.

Says state Congress president Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, "We request the minister to get married in more places. Then there will be development in more villages."

People from surrounding villages are cursing their luck for not being home to the bride-to-be as they have lost out on the development.

The minister insists that he wont comment on the infrastructure development as it is his private affair and he doesn't need to explain anything to people. Read more here
More gems from today's news

  1. Gangster claims he sent hitmen to kill Mahesh Bhatt as he believes killing Bhatt would be a great service rendered to the nation. I mean, service rendered to the TV viewing audience that is tired of MB's righteous indignation and opinions on everything from amoebae to Andhra Pradesh? yes! But service to the Nation?
  2. Madhya Pradesh bans Nursery rhymes, they are not Hindu enough it seems.
  3. Ajmer dargha wants to ban women as men get distracted from prayers. Why just prayers? Lets ban women everywhere, they shouldn't step out of the harems, *sigh* if wishes were horses...

This banning bit is something that I so don't get. I don't see why our 'mature', 'secular democracy' has to ban so many things....

Update: Found a gem of a post from last years rains about my favoritest newspaper in the whole wide world. Read this and you'll know why they are the beshtesht source of entertainment in my otherwise sad and deary life...

More... Friday, June 09, 2006 |

In case I haven’t already bored everyone (everyone being my lone loyal reader) to death with my Delhi chronicles, here are some more notes from Delhi.

The Red Fort has an eerie feel to it….
Or maybe it’s just knowing that so many have died within these very walls, I believe I’ll feel the same if I ever happened to peek into THAT well at Jalianwallah Bagh. No patriotic jingoism (or jingoistic patriotism?) here.
Am quite sure that my spider senses will buzz at way past the fail-safe point if I ever visit Auschwitz.
Its just death…

Jama Masjid and Chandni Chowk have more class than apun ka Minara Masjid and Mohammed Ali Street, sad but true. Our claim to fame still sadly is Dawood Bhai…

Watched a movie at PVR Rivoli, CP. Neat job of reviving a single screen theatre(wish someone had done that to Metro instead of creating another tasteless multiplex). One peeve: they have a stupid no bags policy (only for men of course). You can’t carry anything in with you! What utter crap! And to add to it the dodos don’t even have a cloakroom. Now what was me innocent tourist to do in anjaan city?
Pimply kid(usher?) : “Sorry sir, its official policy”
Me : “Bullshit!”
Kid : “Sorry sir!”
Me : “I want to speak to the manager!”
Kid : “I AM the Manager”
(Ok he got me there)
I was told I should try nearby paan wallahs, they may hold my bag for me. But me street smart Mumbai kid can’t trust anyone. Finally ended up leaving bags with cop at nearby chowky(had to sit with a constable and discuss treatment options for piles before picking up my bag after the movie… but that’s another story)

Where are the public dustbins in Delhi??????

Walking along Rajpath you realise that you can never ever hope to see so much (well maintained and public) open space within Greater Mumbai city limits.

Dally and Railway musings… Thursday, June 08, 2006 |

Dally metro is good… but I still like the wind in my hair when I hang out of the Virar local clutching on for dear life;) The metro is just too aseptic and characterless for my Mumbai sensibilities… the alternate explanation of course is a mighty case of sour grapes.

The Delhi Gwalior train ride has to be the best experience I have had with the Indian railways so far.
317kms - three hours flat, comfiest chair car ever…. Breakfast, coffee, and newspapers (too bad we stuffed ourselves silly on ‘aloo ke parathe’ outside New Delhi station, but food on the table was dealt with in a just manner;) )

The German built coaches of the Delhi-Bhopal Shatabdi(fastest train in the country if you go by some accounts) had just pulled out of New Delhi railway station. Me and a friend were lounging back into the most lounge-able seats that Lalooji’s ministry can provide. Semi synthetic female voice droned on about the sights to see in Agra (our next stop) taking care to omit little details like the dirty stained marble of the Taj and the ambient temperature outside the train. Loudishpikar suddenly crackled, soothing voice modulated female was replaced by a harsh “Yatri kripaya dhyan de, coach kramank C4 mein ek yatri ki tabiyat achanak bigad gayi hai. Agar train par sawar koi daactar sahab ho to we jald hi coach C4 mein aane ki kripa karen”

My post-prandial nap thus rudely disturbed, I nudge friend. Friend raises eyebrows “what to do?” I was like “We go!” friend shrugs and both rise. After a bit of fumbling with precision made German doors we finally reach C4.

We rush to obese man looking uneasy but bravely smiling. I was about to ask man what was wrong, when people next to me go “Lagta hai train pe koi Doctor nahin”. They just seemed to look right through us. The guard and the ticket examiner also didn’t seem to have the foggiest…

Realization strikes…!(us not themL ) See, Delhi was supposed to be a fun trip. Hence by the time we got on to the train we had hungover eyes and three day old stubbles. Besides we had also slept the previous night in the same faded dirty jeans and T-shirts.
All in all, we looked nothing like what the ‘lay’ junta expect a pair of well-qualified respectable physicians (this is MY blog so I’ll say what I want) to look like.
Well, to cut to the chase, while we were thus immersed in pondering over how our appearance had failed us and how they would probably ask to see credentials, a suitably middle aged man wearing a tie and with a leather case came tumbling along and told the ‘patient’ to relax sip some water and wait for the motion sickness to tide over. We of course, slunk back to our seats, soberer.

It was decided then and there that something shall be done about our appearance. We were going to visit a friends place for the first time and we didn’t want her extended family to think that they had a couple of junkies staying over. After some thought it was decided that a shave each is what we need.

Now me dearies, those of you who have experienced the extremely comfortable suspension on Indian trains know that this idea could only be the product of sick minds ‘dying’ to slit their own throats. We were desperate here and besides, this was a new super cool coach, so we expected the suspension to be better. After a brief reconnaissance mission it was gathered that the loos were okay and even had sockets for electric shavers.(but the Railway babus in all their wisdom had provided 110volt sockets, are only tourists allowed to use electric shavers?)
The plan was to get up quietly, gather shaving kits from respective rucksacks and commandeer a bathroom each. But as we both got up and walked to the bathrooms I could feel eyes boring into us. Why?

Realization strikes ...(part two… us again)! Two suspicious looking characters carrying something in small bags to the bathrooms in a co-ordinated move… first guess? “Bomb threat?” “Can they highjack the train?”

Almost burst out laughing this time, thankfully no one pulled the chain or jumped us. It would suffice to say that we emerged valiantly (without a single nick, the suspension WAS good) clean-shaven and went back to our seats with only a stare from the railway police guard on the train.

Salsette Creek

"Random musings"